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Consumer

Coming US Law Could Threaten Internet’s Most Popular Sites

(File photo.  Credit: Ed Fischer)

(File photo. Credit: Ed Fischer)

Ian Bush Ian Bush
Ian Bush is an anchor, reporter, news editor, and technology editor&nb...
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By Ian Bush

Congress soon will consider competing bills that target those who steal music and movies online. But it could have a major impact on how everyone surfs the web.

The House Judiciary Committee this month is expected to vote on the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” or SOPA.

“SOPA would allow people who own copyrights — which, in reality, are large movie studios and members of the recording industry, but also a lot of software companies and so on — to claim that a web site, especially a foreign one, infringes their copyright,” says CNET chief political reporter Declan McCullagh. “It would make it effectively vanish from the Internet.”

But McCullagh says Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and many of their users don’t like the measure.

“Something like a million people have contacted Congress,” he notes. He says they’re concerned that the bill goes beyond what’s necessary to target the sites where piles of pirated music and movies are there for the taking.

“It would allow the government to get orders telling Internet service providers that they have to snoop on everything you’re doing. It’s called Deep Packet Insepction. There are serious privacy issues there.”

McCullagh says sites like WikiLeaks and even Wikipedia could be affected.

So, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) are pushing an alternative, called the OPEN Act, that’s less restrictive.

“It’s a follow-the-money approach,” McCullagh says. “It says these offshore web sites are making money from ads, and they’re getting payments from ad networks via banks, credit card companies, and so on. So it tries to target both of those and says the International Trade Commission — an existing federal agency that reviews complaints about patents — would also get the power to investigate cases of copyright infringement.”

Silicon Valley likes it, but Hollywood doesn’t. Wyden and Issa want public input on their bill, and have put it online at keepthewebopen.com.

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